In 2018, baseball instituted new limits on mound visits at every level of affiliated baseball above short-season ball. You may have noticed the mound visit tracker in the majors, where teams only get 6 per 9 inning game. In A-ball, they get 10, in AA they get 8, and in AAA, like the major leagues, they get 6. It was part of Commissioner Rob Manfred’s pace of play initiatives, in which he tried to get the games to speed up a little bit
So what kind of difference has that rule made? How have the players seen it make a difference on the field?
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s affected us one time this year. I think six is plenty,” Ryder Jones said in late July. “I’ve never seen the coaches trying to think if they should get out there or not because of the number of mound visits remaining, so I don’t think it’s affected it.”
The general vibe from players was that it wasn’t that big of a deal. Steven Okert said that it didn’t really affect him at all, because “I feel like we’ve done a good job of talking about it and getting things between the catchers done before you go out and stuff like that, so I don’t think it’s really hurt us too much.”
There were exceptions, though, with one coming from a major league perspective. I asked Nick Hundley his opinion, and he felt very positively about the change. “I love it. It’s great,” he said. “There’s some things you gotta do between innings and be more prepared that way,” but he viewed that as a positive. And as for the number of visits, whether it needs to be revised to be a little higher, he was clear on that too, saying that, “Six is more than enough.”
There were also players who weren’t quite as positive. Gregor Blanco, though he likes the rule in the minors -- “You just want to make the game faster” – didn’t love it quite so much at the highest level. “Maybe for the minor leagues it’s good, but for the majors, maybe you gotta go talk to the pitcher about something else, so definitely not.”
And Trevor Brown didn’t care for the rule at all.
”I’m not a big fan of it, to be honest. I think all it’s doing is slowing the game down even more because now, when we can go out and use a mound visit and try to get a guy to calm down and come back and hopefully end the inning quicker, we have to sit down and say, okay, do I want to waste one of these mound visits now? And then we just let him roll it out, and he keeps struggling, struggling. Then we go out and end up using it, and then the pitching coach comes out after one more hitter because he has to take him out. So I don’t really like it.
“There’s some teams that would abuse it, and so I kinda understand it,” Brown continued. “They’d go out every single time a pinch hitter [came in], or every inning the guy’s going out a couple times. I get it, but in general I don’t think the game really needed it.”
Even with one strong no vote, and another that wasn’t especially positive, overall the players I talked to were in favor of the new mound visit rule. They liked that it sped the game up, and they liked that it didn’t seem to affect it very much. Maybe the jury’s still out on whether it made the game better, but it sure seems like it hasn’t made it worse.